The Wrong Door

The village is called Southelton. County: Suffolk. Population: 442. Pubs: two, The Old Bell and The Fox. Distance from sea: between three and three and a half miles depending on if the tide is in or out. One Post Office, one bookshop, one shop where you can buy stuff like string and lager and baked beans and organic mushrooms. No station, no doctor, no butcher, no baker, no candlestick-maker. You get the idea. The name, as I said, is Southelton but don’t ask me how it’s pronounced: I’ve heard half a dozen different versions, including two from the same person, since we moved here.

Actually, that’s not quite true. The last bit. We haven’t ‘moved’ here, in the sense that we have no other residence. There’s the house in London which, if we’re honest, is where the real stuff is. So, yes, let’s use the word: we’re weekenders.

No, we’re not. We do come down most weekends (though it’s a bugger of a drive and even worse on the train) but either Emma or I or both of us are sometimes here for longer. On Monday as well, for instance. Or Thursday. You see what I mean? And you can guarantee that, if we are down of a weekday, we make sure we buy some string, or a stamp, or a book, or a drink, even if we don’t really need them, just to prove we’re present out of hours.

Look – I don’t want to make a big thing about this. It’s just that some others do. In any community there’s stuff that goes on and we want to be involved. We’re both sociable. We care about where we happen to be. We’re interested in other people. We have to be: Emma’s a journalist and I’m a screenwriter.

Now I’m making it worse. I can see what you’re thinking and it’s the same as some people must be thinking here. I know someone local could have bought this house, instead of which they’re living with their parents in Thruxbridge or Ashfield Green. That’s not our fault. I can look myself in the mirror and can say that we’ve met the situation more than half-way. Emma got a piece about the bookshop into a national which resulted in a spike in visitors for several months. I’ve been asked to join the parish council which would be great except the meetings are on Wednesdays. We buy raffle tickets and paperbacks and pints of beer. We have our weekend papers delivered by the local firm. All we want to do is keep our noses clean, play the game, fit in. Who doesn’t?

These good intentions have been on the go for six years now and I was beginning to think that we were getting somewhere, were starting to mould our lives around the local human landscape. Then, last Saturday, the whole thing exploded in our faces.

 

• The rest of this story is now available in a paperback book (as are 25 others) – Unaccustomed as I Am (RRP £9.95).

It is stocked by the Hungerford Bookshop and you can place your order here.

Copies are also available at the White Horse Bookshop in Marlborough, the Mad Hatter Bookshop in Wantage and through an increasing number of other retailers.

You can order it from any bookshop: they will need to know that the ISBN is 978-1-8382580-0-9 and that it can be ordered from Gardners or Central Books.

Brian Quinn

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